Lisa Rex, principal of Central Elementary School, introduces Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., commanding officer of (PCU) America (LHA
130819-N-LQ799-008 PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Aug. 19, 2013) - Lisa Rex, principal of Central Elementary School, introduces Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., commanding officer of the amphibious assault ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) America (LHA 6), during a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new patio. Sailors assigned to America have spent the last two weeks rebuilding a patio damaged from Hurricane Katrina. America is undergoing construction in Pascagoula, Miss. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lewis Hunsaker/Released)
PCU America Assists Local School
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lewis Hunsaker
PASCAGOULA, Miss. - Sailors assigned to Pre-commissioning Unit (PCU) America (LHA 6) joined administrators and students from Central Elementary School at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Pascagoula, Aug. 19.

Over the last two weeks Sailors spent more than 200 hours rebuilding a patio damaged during Hurricane Katrina.

The patio will provide students additional space to conduct classes, read, or even have lunch when the weather is nice.

"The project started out as a refurbishment but turned into a full rebuild because most of the wood was unsalvageable," said Chief Ship's Serviceman (SW) Juan Landin. "Through the process of rebuilding the patio we discovered that Sailors from USS Yorktown (CG 48) built the original, so reconstructing something established by Sailors had even more meaning to us," Landin said.

"Doing projects like this deck allows us to give something back to the community that has supported the Navy for many years," said Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., commanding officer of PCU America.

The command's involvement with the school began before the deck reconstruction. Sailors started mentoring students last school year and will be acting as mentors again this year. Following the ceremony 26 students met with their mentors to establish relationships that will build as the school year progresses.

"The students relate with our Sailors because they too live and work in this community," said Lisa Rex, Central Elementary School principal. In addition to this year's students, several Sailors continue to mentor students from last year, she added.

PCU America began its partnership with Pascagoula Central Elementary School in March and since then has volunteered more than 285 hours mentoring and providing support for students and faculty. Hall said the Sailors' mentorship provides the students with another resource to be successful.

Landin organized Sailor involvement in the partnership, coordinating mentoring efforts, the patio rebuild and several other events such as sports field day and school assemblies. He said the partnership was initially to assist students with math and reading but evolved into Sailors facilitating sports field day events and participating in school assemblies, with some Sailors even adopting whole classes, providing assistance, mentorship and coordinating end of the year parties.

"What started off as something very simple turned into a lot more than what we ever expected because of the dedication of our Sailors. It just shows the character of the Sailors involved; you ask so much of them, and they consistently offer so much more," said Landin.

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